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Flu vaccines for staffers are part of patient safety

August 29, 2018
From the August 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Thom Wellington

Commissioning inspectors are interested in programs that improve safety and drive successful patient outcomes. To that end, hospitals are not only reviewing the impact of medical equipment care toward patient outcomes they are also moving to expand influenza vaccination to make humans safer. In fact, more health care systems are expanding immunization demands beyond clinical staff and demanding outside contractors also participate. Research shows that human interaction with patients and the patient environment can be negatively impacted by those not immunized. Consequently, maintaining human health in the healthcare setting is just as important as quality-structured programs to keep medical equipment safe.

Hospitals have struggled with implementing internal immunization programs for years due to employee fears and sometimes unconvincing data. Employees understood the significance of maintaining equipment and the environment related to quality outcomes, but overlooked their own effect. Not only from a clinical perspective is an influenza vaccination program important, internal programs also act as a good role model to patients.

“During the 2014–15 season, when [vaccine effectiveness] against medically attended illness caused by any influenza virus was less than 20%, vaccination was estimated to prevent 11,000-144,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 300-4,000 influenza-associated deaths,” according to the CDC. In 2017, a study in Pediatrics was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination also significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza. The study went on to comment that the more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Even with healthcare worker participation below 60%, hospitals must push forward with their programs. Commitment to a flu prevention program is required under accreditation agencies. “The Joint Commission established an Infection Control requirement for all Joint Commission-accredited organizations to establish an annual influenza vaccination program for all employees, including licensed independent practitioners and non-clinical staff,” Michael Kulczycki, executive director of Ambulatory Health Care at the the Joint Commission.

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